Friday, March 25, 2005

Bin Laden's radicalism is our fault

I suppose we shouldn't be surprised, but now it turns out that it's our fault (well, Clinton's fault, anyway) that Osama bin Laden isn't today sitting peacefully poolside in some villa outside Khartoum, with nothing more political on his mind than whether he can squeeze Kojo Annan for another Oil-for-Food contract.

In a Washington Post article, one of bin Laden's old riding buddies is quoted:
If the United States had not pressed Sudan to expel bin Laden, where he spent five largely quiet years, he never would have gone to Afghanistan, where he became increasingly radical, Issam Turabi said. "He would have been left here to grow big and fat like many Sudanese rich men. How would history have been?" he asked, shaking his head at the thought.
He's not the only one shaking his head at the thought. What piffle.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

An Islamic hate-speech double standard

Sohail Mohammed, a lawyer for the American Muslim Union, has asked the New Jersey Attorney General to investigate comments made by members of the Coptic Christian community of Jersey City, according to an article in Newsday. In the days after the killing of a Coptic Christian family in January, many members of the community lashed out at Muslims, blaming religious hatred for the deaths. It turns out that religious differences had nothing to do with the murders. Police have arrested Edward McDonald and Hamilton Sanchez, upstairs neighbors who needed money to pay a debt and probably had no clue if the Armanious family was Christian, Muslim, or Zoroastrian.

Mohammed said those comments might have been designed to dissuade Muslims from attending the funeral, and could have been intended to stir up anti-Muslim sentiment ... "We are concerned that those comments were deliberately intended to incite the public," Mohammed said. "If it was intentional, we want Mr. Harvey to do an investigation and determine if it was a bias crime. If there was bias related to it, it becomes a bias crime."

Fine. Point taken, and the Attorney General's Office will look into it. Now does anyone from the American Muslim Union have anything to say about the comments made last Friday by a protester outside the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where Amina Wadud lead a mixed-gender Muslim prayer service? Amina Wadud is a woman, and women are traditionally barred from leading men in prayer in Islam.

A report by Reuters quoted a protester named Nussrah: "'That woman does not represent Islam at all. This is blasphemy, and the penalty for blasphemy is death and that is what this woman deserves.'" To their credit, Al Jazeera also reported on the prayer service and the protest, and even quoted Nussrah's implicit call for a lynching: "'If this was [sic] an Islamic state, this woman would be hanged.'"

Talk about "dissuading people from attending."

Try standing outside St. John the Divine the next time there's an interracial wedding going on inside. Carry a protest sign and spout off to reporters that back where you come from your bigoted friends would lynch the groom or the bride or both. See if the police let you stick around to throw rice. See if they even let you go home.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Another hair-raising link ... a clear fatwa on homosexuality

A fatwa, or Islamic legal ruling, issued by Dr. Taha Jaber Al-Alwan on the issue of homosexuality. Al-Alwan is the president of the Fiqh Council of North America. "Fiqh" means Islamic jurisprudence. "North America" refers to yet another place on earth that would be better off without a Fiqh Council. Read on.

It has also been narrated from the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) that this crime deserves severe punishment more than that of adultery to insure its deterrence and restraint. Verily, the punishment here is the burning of both homosexuals (the actor and acted upon) or stoning them with rocks till death because Allah Most High stoned the people of Lut after demolishing their village.

The other hijab ban

Here's an article from an Islamic news site that covers the controversial banning of the hijab in Turkey. This ban on the wearing of headscarves in universities has been in effect and enforced since long before the French ban--women have been expelled from universities and removed from teaching posts for violating the ban.

In a report published in 2004, Human Rights Watch states that the ban "has excluded thousands of women from higher education," but it is unclear where they get this figure, or if it is speculation based on a presumed segment of the Turkish population that would pursue higher education if only it were permitted to do so with the hijab. As usual, HRW applies its special brand of hare-brained logic to the situation and comes out in the end siding with the Islamists. HRW may just be trying to ensure business for itself in the future, for western liberal acceptance of Islamic gender apartheid may well usher in a new era of human rights violations that will have HRW sputtering on ineffectually and Kofi Annan issuing strong condemnations for years to come.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Let them say cakewalk

While watching a video of an anti-Israel hate speech shot at UC Irvine and posted on Little Green Footballs yesterday, I was reminded of the whole "Iraq Cakewalk" debate. At one point in the video, Amir-Abdel Malik-Ali states: "Richard Perle, you know, the Neocons and Zionist Jews who were in the Pentagon who actually got George Bush to go into Iraq, they told George Bush this will be a cakewalk." Aside from its revolting anti-Semitism, Malik-Ali's statement is another example of how widely accepted this "cakewalk" lie has become.

The "cakewalk" assertion is often attributed to Rumsfeld. Neither he nor Perle ever said Iraq would be a cakewalk, and Rumsfeld repeatedly stated that he disagreed with that assessment. In fact, General Richard Meyers and Rumsfeld held a press briefing in December of 2002 at which they specifically stated that a war in Iraq would not be a cakewalk.

CNN's report on the briefing, posted on December 18, 2002, carried the headline: "U.S. officials: Iraq war no 'cakewalk'." Strangely, the article doesn't come up through a CNN search, but a Google search uncovered the link. Go figure. Couldn't turn up any article on the briefing in the New York Times archives either. I've got the CNN article as a PDF file in case the page is just cached somehow and vanishes in a week.

Here is an excerpt from the transcript of the Defense Department's December 17, 2002, press briefing:

Q: We keep hearing from some military analysts, military experts that war with Iraq might be a cakewalk, that in fact they might -- the Iraqi forces might fold very quickly. How does that square with your assessment of how war with Iraq might go?

Rumsfeld: Well, Dick Myers and I have both responded from this podium that that's, in our view, not the way to look at this situation. First of all, any war is a dangerous thing, and it puts people's lives at risk.

And second, I think that it is very difficult to have good knowledge as to exactly how Iraqi forces will behave. A part of it will depend on a whole series of things, in the event they were to evolve and occur, that could affect their behavior favorably or unfavorably. And since those things we can't predict -- first of all, we don't know what the president will decide or what anyone else will decide, if there will be a use of force. But if there were to be such a decision, it's not knowable in what the context might be. And that would affect, one would think, how Iraqi forces would behave.

We do know that in a matter of hours some 60[,000], 70[,000], 80,000 [Iraqis] -- not hours, maybe days; it was two or three days -- dropped their weapons and surrendered very quickly in the Desert Storm. What would happen this time is an entirely open question.

Q: Mr. Secretary --

Rumsfeld: Do you want to answer that?

Myers: I would just say there's nobody involved in the military planning, to include the secretary or any of the senior leadership in this building, I think, that you'll find, that would say that this sort of endeavor, if we were asked to do it, would be a cakewalk. I mean, it's just not how we characterize it.

So who did say the Iraq war would be a cakewalk? Well, that would be Ken Adelman, who worked for Rumsfeld for two years during the Ford administration. He wrote a piece in the Washington Post in February of 2002 stating that he personally believed the war would be a cakewalk. Adelman is now a member of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee, though it is not clear whether he held that position at the time of the article. His opinion was never represented as Bush administration or Defense Department policy or belief. In fact, as the transcript of the press briefing shows, Meyers and Rumsfeld clearly rejected Adelman's view.

There is certainly reason for criticism of the planning of the war, in particular regarding the bizarre decision to let lawlessness prevail after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. Resorting to dishonesty, however, discredits the critics.

On a lighter note, here is an explanation of the origins and history of the term "cakewalk," from early voguing to pugilism to the most famous thing Rumsfeld never said.

Another dissembling New York Times headline

The "Most E-Mailed" Times article this morning is titled "Under Bush, A New Age of Prepackaged Television News." It casts light on the practice of local news broadcasts running government-made infomercials as news stories--a grave threat to those silly enough to believe anything they see on a local news broadcast. The Times managed to make this the day's most popular FWD by starting the headline with the phrase "Under Bush, a New Age of ..." This kind of fill-in-the-blank provocation (try "... Dangerous SUVs," "... Censorship," or "... Toxic Bath Towels") will fire up the knee-jerk anti-Bush crowd any day.

The tenth paragraph, however, directly contradicts the headline's premise. It begins:

The practice, which also occurred in the Clinton administration ...

So what happened to it being "New" "Under the Bush Administration"?

The piece later hems and haws about increased spending on video news releases under Bush, citing a study done by Senate Democrats. Okay, now who's passing off partisan political opinion as news?

Then there's this winner:

Under the Bush administration, federal agencies appear to be producing more releases, and on a broader array of topics.

A definitive accounting is nearly impossible.

Ultimately, the question is "Who cares?" I don't need the Times coming to rescue me from video news releases. After all, who will rescue me from the Times?

The New York Times > Washington > Under Bush, a New Age of Prepackaged Television News

Saturday, March 12, 2005

A note about one "Hair-Raising Link"

It occured to me that the "hair-raising" nature of the Play & Learn link I've put in the bar on the right might not be apparent to those who don't go digging around the site a little.

So here are a couple of links to pages within the site:

Play & Learn's instruction to Muslim children that non-believers rank somewhere between dog shit and Stoli in terms of Najasaat (things that are unclean and make pure things unclean by contact).

Play & Learn's warning to girls that "Ladies without hijab [modesty in clothing and behavior], you're an atom undone [Huh?], you've exploded in society, the fatalaties will come."

There's plenty more frightening content on this site, which describes its raison d'etre thus: "[B]ecause today's kids have the burden of carrying the torch of Islam into the future ... we have dedicated this page for the children of Islam."

Arroyo orders cover-up of appeasement-policy failure

President Arroyo of the Philippines said today that it's best not to talk about or write about the the kidnapping of Robert Tarongoy by terrorists in Iraq. She claims it's better for him that way, but it seems to me it's better for her. The incident does seem to point out the flaw in her decision to cave in back in mid-2004, when she said that complying with terrorists' demands to withdraw her nation's troops from Iraq would actually help keep Filipinos safe (source: CNN, July 26, 2004). Tell that to Tarongoy.

Sun.Star Network Online - Arroyo orders news blackout on Tarongoy’s case

MSNBC demonizes civil disobedience

Note the difference in the media's approach to these Iranian protesters and to terrorists in Iraq and around the world. While lopping off some truck driver's head or blowing up a pizzeria usually gets the perpetrators' demands a full airing in the media (often in the terrorists' own words), these peaceful protesters' goals are given a quick and inaccurate treatment. The action at Zaventem airport outside Brussels--which is clearly "civil" disobedience--is treated as a crime, while the beheading of hostages is contorted into political protest. This article goes out of its way to marginalize the demands of the Brussels protesters: ignoring the stated goals of the protesters, it suggests that they are only against theocratic rule in order to replace it with a restored monarchy. It also stresses the "no international support" statement supposedly made by a negotiator. They've got my support. It's a sit-in. They did not threaten harm to any person or property. They are no doubt also aware that they will at the very least be held finanically responsible for the disruption they caused to airport traffic and for the cost of the necessary police action to resolve the situation (source: Expatica, March 11, 2005). This is a peaceful act of civil disobedience attempting to call attention to the threat of a violent, corrupt totalitarian regime with 70 million people under its boot.

MSNBC - Belgian police board jet occupied by protesters

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Incredible ... and they wonder why they lost

Whenever I need reassurance that I'm standing on the correct side of America's current political divide, I swing by the Democratic Underground's site. Hit the jackpot tonight:

Here are a dozen or so DU members focusing their time and energy on a thread about the imminent dangers posed to our nation by bath towels. And they want another turn running the country?

Believe it or not, for the Democratic Underground this topic falls under "Latest Breaking News."

Let's see ... a quick rundown of today's news:
• The Chinese create a legal justification for attacking Taiwan should it declare independence ...
• People on U.S. terrorism watch lists still manage to acquire guns legally ...
• The WHO reveals that its bird-flu testing methods let infected people slip back into the general population ...
• Mount St. Helens erupts ...

Nope, hold all that. Let's deal with this bath towel crisis.

Jaw-droppingly inane. Underground indeed.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The long-lost "United States of Islam" map

Originally uploaded by tompain.
In Who Killed Daniel Pearl (Melville House, 2003), Bernard-Henri Levy makes reference to a map of "The United States of Islam" depicting in one corner an Islamist vision of the world in 20 years (page 421). I've been searching for this map ever since reading the book, and now Little Green Footballs has recovered it from the Web Wastebin with the help of The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine (which has a long memory for potentially embarrassing pre-9/11 sites). Admiration and thanks to LGF. Here's a link to LGF's post.

LittleGreenFootballs: The United States of Islam

I'm not certain that it is the same map HBL had in hand. There seem to be some differences. I suppose we also cannot be certain that the map is not the clumsy work of Mossad or Karl Rove, as the tinfoil-helmet contingent will undoubtedly claim. Nevertheless, here it is.

A more complete account of the Sharia-court-sanctioned gang rape of Mukhtar Bibi

Click on the title for a better-than-BBC explanation of the circumstances and events that led to Pakistani schoolteacher Mukhtar Bibi's 2002 public gang rape by members of a panchayat or jirga, a type of Sharia-based elders' council. This story made the news again Sunday after a Pakistani court decided to let the men go free.

I've been disturbed by the frequent use of the word "tribal" by American and European media in describing the panchayat and this part of the Muslim world. I believe that for many westerners, the word conjures up images of face-painted, loincloth-clad ectomorphs squatting in dusty forest clearings trying to squeeeze a lucid thought out of their hallucinogen-addled brains. But get this (from Adnan Laeeq's 2002 article, linked in the title of this post):

Most tribal chiefs in Pakistan have enjoyed higher education; many hold office in the country's legislature on the basis of their tribes' allegiance and bloc voting pattern; all are at least locally, and many nationally, influential. However, many tribal chiefs do not appear to integrate their roles in national politics and their tribal milieu, keeping the norms, standards and discourses well apart. They hold jirgas with unquestioned authority, then fly to Islamabad to take part in a formally democratic system based on the notion of equality for all.

Now perhaps my concept of "tribal" is a little, um, backward, but it looks to me like what is going on here is another example of a Muslim society letting men have it two ways while women get humiliated, abused, or even killed. Don't forget that Mukhtar Bibi wasn't even before the panchayat for anything she had done. The gang rape's supposed "legal" purpose was to punish her family for an infraction her brother had committed (an allegation which was very likely fabricated anyway to cover for the elders' having gang-raped him earlier in the day).

These men need to be brought up to speed. We can't share a planet with this and call ourselves good (or safe, for that matter).

Monday, March 07, 2005

Daniel Schorr reconsidered

Click the title to read Daniel Schorr taking his first tentative bite of crow after two years of treating the Bush administration like a political piñata. Here's an excerpt:

The movements for democratic change in Egypt and Lebanon have happened since the successful Iraqi election on Jan. 30. And one can speculate on whether Iraq has served as a beacon for democratic change in the Middle East.

During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, President Bush said that "a liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region."

He may have had it right.

Thanks for the frankness, Mr. Schorr. Perhaps the Left will save itself after all, if another hundred million people or so admit that Bush, Rumsfield, Rove, and Wolfowitz are not so misguided or evil after all. Democracy does bring positive change, even (or perhaps especially) when imposed by force. Afghanistan is free and functioning, Libya has come in out of the cold, the mullahs in Iran are finding that even its old lapdogs won't come when called, Pakistan's peddling of nuclear technology has been exposed and ended, voters in Egypt are looking forward to the novelty of a ballot offering a choice of candidates, and now Syria's long-ignored invasion and occupation of a sovereign nation (and UN member state) is finally coming to an end. (Incidentally, how much howling would there be if Bush were to announce he plans to keep US forces and the CIA in Iraq and influencing elections until 2030? Chirac and the rest of the cynical European gun merchants don't seem to care so much about occupation when the occupiers are making deals with them.)

Thank you, Mr. Schorr, for having the nerve to reconsider your take on the situation when so many others on the Left clench their eyes shut at each positive development in the Middle East. And thank you, also, for finally admitting that the Bush administration did offer another (more sensible) rationale for the invasion than weapons of mass destruction. As with the elimination of the Hussein regime in Iraq, better late than never.

Well, here goes ...

Let's see if I can put these hours of news sifting and thinking to some use.